Scroll To Top
Prevention

More Health Benefits to Early Treatment

More Health Benefits to Early Treatment

HIVers who begin antiretroviral therapy soon after acquiring the virus may have stronger immune responses to other pathogens than infected individuals who begin treatment later, a new study from the National Institutes of Health has found. This finding suggests that early initiation of treatment may prevent irreversible immune system damage and adds to the body of evidence showing significant health benefits from early antiretroviral therapy.

Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH, measured the quantity and qualities of B cells in blood samples taken from three groups of study volunteers: men who had been infected with HIV for less than six months, men who had been infected with HIV for six months or more (often for several years), and men who were not infected with HIV. The HIV-infected men began taking anti-HIV meds for the first time once they entered the study.

B cells make proteins called antibodies that can flag pathogens for destruction by the immune system and prevent them from infecting cells. At the outset of the study, the number of B cells in the blood of both groups of HIV-infected men was significantly lower than the number of B cells in the blood of the uninfected men. Once the two groups of HIV-infected men began treatment, however, the numbers of B cells in their blood increased significantly and to similar degrees.

Qualitatively, however, the compositions of B cells in the two groups of HIV-infected men differed notably throughout the study. The researchers compared the relative proportions of six different types of B cells within and among each of the three groups at the study outset and one year after the HIV-infected men had started treatment. The scientists observed that early treatment restored resting memory B cells to the same level as that in HIV-uninfected men, but late treatment did not. Resting memory B cells remember how to make antibodies to a pathogen and can last a lifetime. Also, early treatment reduced the proportion of immature B cells to the same level as that in HIV-uninfected men, but late treatment did not. In addition, after one year, the late-treatment group had a significantly greater proportion of so-called exhausted B cells—those that have shut themselves off and resist doing their usual pathogen-fighting activities—compared with the other two groups of participants.

To learn how these differences affected immune system responses to new infections, the research team examined how the two groups of HIV-infected men responded to influenza vaccination at the start of the study and one year after beginning treatment. At the one-year point, a significantly greater proportion of B cells made anti-influenza antibodies in the early treatment group compared with the late treatment group. This suggests that starting therapy early in the course of HIV infection enables individuals to fight off other pathogens better than if they start it later, when the infection has become chronic.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

HIV Plus Editors

Editor

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.